The Arab world has been shaking up, demanding change after decades of being oppressed and falling victim to corrupt governments. But not all protests are about politics here and we’re all not trying to dissolve dictatorships. With the 100th anniversary of Women’s Day approaching, the Lebanese organization “Nasawiya” took the streets of Lebanon asking simple, but important questions to the ladies of Lebanon.
Visiting Southern Lebanon, you’ll find that it is very conservative. It may be 2011 but people here still keep a tight grip on their traditional lifestyles- the history, the food, the culture and sadly, the ignorance. As a southern Lebanese girl, I can relate to a lot of what the women here go through. A lot will tell you that it’s not only a political problem, but a problem of society as well. Men hold this superiority over women and since women are afraid of speaking up and changing the way our land is run, they keep silent. But today, thanks to the lovely Nasawiya girls, these women had a chance to voice their opinions and to feel like they are finally being heard.
I had the privilege of joining these lovely ladies scattered through the streets of Tyre, dressed in feminist t-shirts, with their pen and papers, and ready to listen to what these Lebanese women had to say. I myself interviewed some of women of the city and did what I could with my broken Arabic! The most important question, “As a woman, what kind of change do you want to see?”. And I was frankly quite surprised at the array of opinions displayed before me. Many women were scared and embarrassed to share their views, others were very eager! Some were in denial and there were a few who just didn’t want to bother.
Though, with a little bit of prying, I got many comments- majority of which all lead back to one point: Give women their rights and let us be free! Which rights in particular? It can be political right such as giving a child the right to his nationality, even if his father is not Lebanese. Or even a society right of acknowledging a woman for her hard work as a mother, a secretary, a housewife…whatever she may be. They made it very clear they wanted unity between both genders, they wanted to be recognized and they were just fed up! There was an ultimate connection between these women and I, because we both knew how it felt to be raised in such a way where women are not allowed to live, but just exist. It made me happy to let the women know that we are here for them and we want change.
Though, not everyone agreed with what Nasawiya is trying to provide and the ignorance mentioned earlier did make an appearance. There were a few mishaps were I was mocked by men or laughed at by women. There was one moment in particular where I was cut off midway through a conversation with a woman by a man who just started conversing with her, zoning me out.
Some will tell you that Lebanon does not need change and that this organization is silly. Some will say that women don’t need anymore rights and that Lebanon was one of the more freer countries of the Arab world. Though, unfortunately, this is not a competition of which Middle Eastern country is freer than the last. This is about creating a democracy between men and women and being a FREE country, not in comparison with others.
The ladies and I ended our little endeavor feeling successful and said our goodbyes. I think we’d all agree that a major problem here is the wall of fear Lebanese women live behind. They are scared of breaking it and scared of the changes. They fear being loud and fear the consequences for speaking their mind. But this is only the beginning!
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Follow the hashtag #hellowomen on Twitter, for updates from fellow Nasawiya activists.
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